Fashion Show dominates Afrodysee Festival

A model on the stage

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Dubbed the African Trends Market, this year’s Afrodysee was a colourful marriage of fashion and culture. An integral part of this one-day event in May was Le Grande Marché which had a rich selection of clothes for children and adults, as well as fashion accessories such as bags, shoes, hand-printed scarves and jewellery for sale.

Contemporary artwork, furnishings and decorative curios were also available for the discerning buyer. This bustling marketplace was full of young designers and entrepreneurs who chatted with clients as they admired bracelets and cosmetics or tried on clothes before and after the show. There was a lot to feast the eyes on and touch. Notable in this regard were Peuhl Vagabond with its purple aso-oke-like fabric dress and Uchawi’s quirky collection of interwoven fabric of khaki greens, blue and black. Kwadusa’s brightly coloured palettes of yellows, blues and orange ankara clothing were modelled by children while Nio Far’s adult collection combined the new with the old using traditional Bogolon fabric on backpacks and shoes. Ownbrown caused a hush in the room when models strutted down the catwalk in nude underwear that left nothing to the imagination, but it was really Bilongo who stole the show with the curvy models whose provocative dance moves in barely-there swimwear left some more hypnotised by their gyrating hips than by the affordability of what they were wearing.  

L'Artisanale stall whose creator is from Senegal,

For those who wanted to sample African cuisine, there was a variety on offer in the open garden space. Guests could try out Wollof rice, grilled chicken, fried plantains and bean cakes, then wash it all down with a cool gulp of bissap. For dessert, there were cupcakes designed with African wax motif, as delightful as they were delicious.

In the early afternoon, there were talks and debates on issues related to the diaspora and the meaning of modern fashion in our afro-centric context.

It was however the main event which was the fashion show in the evening that proved to be particularly popular. The main and overflow rooms were filled to the brim with many craning their necks to catch a glimpse of the models on the catwalk. An energetic dance routine by Threaded Tribes had the audience clapping with delight as did a musical performance by a singer.

Dresses, shorts, gowns combined the traditional with the contemporary. Designed from a more afro-centric viewpoint, the mud-cloth from Mali was reimagined while the danshikis were refreshingly modern.  iLab Design  is particularly worth mentioning as they were the only stall to offer high quality interior design items as well as fashion accessories by creators such as Adele Djak.

While it is a common complaint that there is a paucity of social events geared towards the interests of the African diaspora and their cultural needs. Some have said the need supersedes the supply or that the number of Africans living in Geneva and the outlying cantons cannot be compared to those living in other cities like London or Paris. 

Undeniably, events such as Afrodysee demonstrate that the African community in Geneva are hungry for a space to express themselves and cultural events which represent their lifestyle interests. This is the fourth edition of this international marketplace and has yet again proven not only its credibility but its necessity in creating a space where the diaspora has a voice.

Events of this nature may be few and far between, but their critical impact is clearly evident in the interest shown by all those attending and purchasing crafts made by Africans.

The night ended with dancing and socialising for those inclined to party into the early hours of dawn, while still wishing the night would never end.